tv Burton and Anita Folsom Discuss Death on Hold CSPAN November 11, 2016 8:15pm-8:51pm EST
she said you don't say anything mrs. carter. you are a southern lady just like mrs. johnson. just be yourself, and it was. these women, there's a code. lady bird johnson knew better than anyone what it is like to deal with the husband who was offended and upset people at times. >> anita folsom what what do you do it hilltop college? >> i direct the "cam for college professors. we worked with economics and history and political -- close to what is your that? >> guest: our goal is to give faculty members and college professors at other campuses more information about free markets and current events and give them material for their classrooms. as as for how long have you been here? >> guest: 10 years. >> host: how many books have
you written or cowritten? >> guest: [laughter] written three books with my husband burton folsom and happy to be here tonight with birds to talk to you about it. >> host: burton folsom what do you say right about? >> guest: i usually write about economic history. i'm interested in entrepreneurs and the rise of the niceties becoming a world power and what propelled the united states to achieve the greatness and if you had to narrow that down into a semi-sound bite what would that be? >> guest: i would say the rise in the united states and the ability of entrepreneurs in the free market setting with property rights to establish tremendous economic development. >> host: where did you two meet? >> guest: wei at murray state university in kentucky when burt came there to work and he was a very young fellow fan and i was a lot younger but i graduated and we ended up working in at the department and he was there
as a very young teacher, so we have met and began dating. >> host: are you from kentucky? >> guest: i'm originally from western kentucky, may feel. guess what she was the best student in first class i taught at murray state university. i did not date her until actually she graduated that i have my eye on her. >> host: prior to hillsdale where were you all? >> guest: we were in houston texas, sugarland actually in burt worked for a foundation in houston. we lived in the houston area for four years and before that burt was at the mackinac center for public policy here in michigan and before that he taught for 18 years at murray state. >> host: what is your connection to washington d.c., the heritage foundation, the young america foundation? >> guest: i often speak at events that those groups sponsor and especially the young america's foundation.
i do a lot of events that they do for college students. they have conferences for high school students and college students and we teach them the principles of the united states. >> host: why are you conservative? >> guest: i am a conservative because i believe the principles that conservatives or free-market thinkers use that work best for people. we study the economy and burkett especially studied the autonomy all through the century of u.s. history and the principles that free markets follow worked. if you study the administration of franklin roosevelt and we have done it in depth, he came up with some ideas but they don't work. the policies of franklin roosevelt actually prolonged -- >> guest: freedom works and the voluntary exchange of people working with one another, businesses, competition come incentive to do well, all of
that works well and creates not only happiness that creates more prosperity in a society and the more the united states has moved in that direction the better we have a come until the late 1800's and early 1900s became complete world leaders and economic development. >> host: what is the process like for you to do car ride book? >> guest: bird is smiling. it's difficult writing a book with your spouse. we have done three. >> guest: we have done three so somehow we survived it. part of it is we each have expertise in certain areas and so we leave the other one alone in that area so we are each writing chapters. when the other one gets the chapters, that sometimes stirs up some controversy. we have done well. the lord has guided us and we have reduced three books together.
>> host: your most recent book is not on economic history or unfree market. what is it about? >> guest: it's a story of a prisoner we got to know in 1983 for the first time and he was on death row then. he was under the death sentence. he had killed a man in alabama and he was in a prison in alabama on death row and in 1983 "time" magazine published an article on the death penalty. a large cover story because the death penalty was much debated in the 80s. it had just become used again in the united states. "time" magazine wrote an article about rutledge and we read it and really burt, we were both struck with mr. rutledge's story but burt was one to take action on that. >> guest: i read the story and they have described mitchell
rutledge as being. they said he couldn't. or write it nobody visited him except his lawyer. the thing that struck me about this story in "time" magazine and to remember was a lengthy story, was that mitchell was the only person interviewed in the article who is suffering for what he had done. he admitted i did it, i was wrong and i apologize for it. the fact that he couldn't. or write him in the subject to the death penalty, and the author of the piece of "time" magazine concluded that his life was not worth anything, that he was a disposable person and so i was shocked that he would draw that conclusion because he was the only one that actually showed remorse for what he had done. here he was in a prison and i couldn't sleep that night thinking about this and especially from a christian standpoint. he was maybe a year away from being executed and because he
was sorry for what he has done, the lord can forgive him and he can still go to heaven. he read -- receive jesus as savior and i thought he can't. or write, how can i communicate with him? i wrote him a letter en bloc letters. >> host: where did you write it? >> guest: the article was a home in prison and it in prison that i've looked at an atlas and there was no homan prison. think of what may be homan alabama in pic visit code in alabama. turns out i picked one in northern alabama rather than southern alabama so was off. i wrote this a block letter saying you are right to forgive and you are sorry for what you did that you can be forgiven and still go to heaven. it was a very short letter and i signed it and i wasn't sure if he was going to get it that i thought if he doesn't at least i discharged my duty.
i think the lord wants but it do something and i felt the need to do this. and i did it in a couple of weeks later a letter came back in the mail. it was from mitchell and it turns out of course i had the wrong zip code and i didn't have his prisoner number either. mail is hard to get through with that then somebody somehow got that letter through to him. it turns out i found out later he had another prisoner read the letter and he was able to compose, because he couldn't. he was able to compose a letter to me in broken english that thanked me for my letter and wanted to continue to communicate with me and he was sorry for what he had done. so i wrote back and anita became involved to mackinac began our relationship with mr. rutledge. >> host: how many letters were written back and forth over the years? how many visits? >> guest: i think hundreds and hundreds. we don't even have the early
letters, the first letters in our session because we turned them in an upcoming court hearing mitchell had gone through but we visited him the following year in 1984. we drove down and we needed to go to florida anyway and he was from southern alabama so he wrote, would you like to have a visit? >> host: was this the first time you have ever been at a prison? >> guest: i have been it to others. one time years before at a prison in western kentucky with a church group and in the early 1980s burt and i were in the philippines and we went to the maximum-security prison in the philippines also with another christian group where there was an active christian energy -- ministry. >> guest: this was incidental to other work. he wasn't a sideline. we wanted to be involved. >> guest: these were not long-term ongoing ministries.
this was just one for each place and so with mitchell and all these letters we thought we would go visit him. >> host: what was your biggest concern? >> guest: might i guess concern i think would be just communicating with him. i had been into other prisons so i knew a little bit but this was a sitdown visit with one man. >> host: uneducated african-american prisoner. >> guest: right, it is letters were still very hard to understand because his written english was so bad. he went all through public school and never graduated from high school, didn't learn to read, mainly went to high school when he was 14, 15, 16 because he could get a free lunch and often that was his only meal of the day on the streets much of the time so he would get a free lunch and then leave and never learned anything. so i was concerned but what
would we speak about? we drove down to alabama where homan is located, just outside of atmar, small southern town. i was familiar with that. we pulled up to the prison early one morning to visit him and it was your typical maximum-security prison, guard towers, razor wire all around the fence and we push the button and we did know how to get in. we pushed the button and they it does this through in the wind then. at that time death row inmates, i believe we reveal me visitors that day. so we sat there for 10 or 15 minutes after they searched us. they always search you when you going to visit prisoners and sat down i went a little little tables with stools around it. attached to the floor so no one can pick up the stool. it was a very solid environment
and we heard noise outside the visiting room and they opened the door and they were taking handcuffs off as very tall black man and he looked at us and i thought that was him from the picture. he walked in and we shake his hand and that was our introduction to mitchell rutledge. the funny thing to me was that it was obvious mitchell was extremely nervous when he walked in. it was his first time in the visiting room and here were two white people he didn't know, he had never had a visitor and the thought immediately occurred to me, why is he so nervous? we are the ones that should be nervous. >> guest: when that door shuts behind you you realize i am locked in this room. it was quite an eerie feeling going in. >> guest: mitchell, he really wanted this visit to work. he wanted to have some friends and have someone he could communicate with on the outside.
so we sat down and talked and he was very surprising. here was a very interesting young man. his grammar and the way he spoke was and what we were accustomed to but he was very articulate in his own way. >> guest: and very smart. that's a surprise me. as a college professor you are used to dealing with young people. he was above average in the intellect and i thought in emotional intelligence the way he connected with people and related to the world, way above average. >> host: how did the prison administration and the guards treat you to shelling out that this maximum-security prison? >> guest: over the years, because we came back regularly, they have been very friendly and they have as i say they recognize how important these visits are to prisoners. we began to understand later over the years there was a
incredible element of status to prisoners because if you have someone on the outside to cares about you than that elevates you. that means you are somewhat in horton. it also means, send a signal to outsiders, you can't really mess with this guy too much because he actually has people who care about him. keep in mind they probably have over half the people that get no visitors at all. so that separates mitch from the others. if he had no friends going into that and his lawyer was the only one who ever visited, no one on the outside would even take a call from him so this was very special for him and it was significant in our lives as well. >> host: what year was this? >> guest: 1984, 32 years ago. host they have you visited every year since? >> guest: virtually every year. i'd have to go back and count. >> guest: we are visiting him saturday.
>> host: this saturday? >> guest: you can only visit once a week. host the wiser room plays? >> guest: because the prisons are overcrowded and the states are different. we lived away but he had lots of visiting days available. number of years ago the state of alabama change the rules and a a lot of other other states to too and now we can only visit once every four weeks and that's the only day you can go. you have to be there at a certain time. you have to set your time up to make that day and if i don't go visit this saturday we may not see him again until december because of the way the dates fall. >> host: anita folsom is a just overcrowding, is that the purpose of the rule? >> guest: beso we understand but mitchell believes, he thinks it's more a process to try to separate the men from the
outside but i think it's simply overcrowding. that's my opinion. and donaldson prison, 1600 men, they have a visiting yard that will see probably 40 families and they have visiting on saturdays and visiting on sundays. mitchell's day was saturday. >> host: so you are flying down to birmingham? >> guest: yes and i have to go the night before to stay over and then you have to be in front of the prison at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. >> guest: she will have to get up at 4:00 or 5:00 to drive to the prison and at 7:00 or 7:30 to be ready to go in. if you are one of the first three you can get in and have extra time with the prisoner so it's important to be there somewhat early. >> guest: you have to get in line with your card. most people get in line by 6:00 a.m. but they start letting people through the fence at 7:00
7:00 and you get as long as you can. if it's too crowded you have to leave after a few hours. the visit goes until 2:00. >> host: you read the article in "time" magazine in 1983 and 2016 you are still visiting him in prison? >> guest: he is a remarkable man. >> host: what happened to death row? >> guest: he managed to be removed from death row because of two trials that he had and i was there for both of them. anita was not able to make the first one. her son had just been born. the second one she she was therefore and we were character witnesses for mitch to show that we cared about him and we believe demand -- hemenway believed his life was worth preserving and we made that argument to the jury. there were others you mentioned that they had contacted mitch as well. and so we had a few people there
that are lawyer, his lawyer who was hired by the southern poverty law center was brought in their to help mitch and be his lawyer. he did a great job and all of us went in there and did our best to make the case this person should go from being executed to having life without parole. we ultimately won the case. 1989 so that was five years after our first visit. we won the case and he was off death row. >> host: he is still in prison? any chance of parole? >> guest: his sentence was reduced to life without parole and an alabama they have passed laws in the meantime. the pardons that were done by president clinton in the 90s really affected the life without parole sentences because many states after the midnight pardon of bill clinton as he was leaving office, he pardoned dozens and dozens of people and some of those were of course i
think more for political favors than money involved but that's another story. it affected the states because in a legislators were very concerned that the future president or a future governor might try the same thing. they change the law so now an alabama life without parole the only way mitch can get a pardon is by an act of the state legislature. they would have to pardon him specifically. >> guest: we have been visiting the state legislature. the state legislators. the minority leader quint ross we have talked with him and cam ward was a republican leader in prison reform. we have talked to both of them who are sympathetic. they have listened to our case and we are working some of the legislature hoping that mitch will be able to received a pardon. he has been in for a total of 36 years and has never had a violent offense. he's a leader in the prison. our society would be better
served having mitch on the outside working to help young people prevent them from going into prison for working with prisoners who have been released to help lower the recidivism rate. >> host: at what point were mitch rutledge's letters back to you coming in poetry form? how did that happen? >> guest: fairly early on. one of the other friends of his life, i believe sister lillian who is a catholic sister from california. >> host: who move down there. >> guest: she literally moved so she could visit more regularly. >> guest: she was teaching in the area. lillian encouraged him to write poetry and i think mitchell is a very talented man. he began writing poetry early on just about his cell and his conditions and about how small the bed was. he is six feet. just.
he's on a short bed, 6 feet long and 2 feet wide and that touched me about how hard it is to rest when you're that large end on such a small bed. and things like getting a package of cookies to e on the weekend and. it was very primitive and very touching. when we wrote the book would put the poems in the book just as he wrote them and we put them in about the time that he wrote them and they meant a lot to us. we kept his letters of course and sister lillian made a point to keep all of his poems and eventually she had them printed and bound and very informal ways but just to keep them altogether. when we wrote the book we looked at those poems and tried to pull out the best ones they showed mitch as he was and is thinking at the time. >> host: in 198083 were you a supporter of capital punishment?
>> guest: i think this is some and 83 burt and i differed on a little bit. i was very hesitant about capital punishment although i could see, i thought it might be a deterrent and i believe burt was much more in support of it. >> host: what about today? >> guest: i still am. i still believe that it does work as a deterrent and a penalty for murdering another person at least a consideration of the death penalty is very appropriate. in mitch's case he did when that pardon and the pardon was available to him. he was able to demonstrate to a jury that his life was worth preserving. within the legal system mitch did when his case but i think capital punishment needs to be considered still. >> host: there are several conversations going on in the country today about prison
reform and whether or not these are correctional institutes are just penal institutes. what are your views on that? >> guest: there is no rehabilitation that takes place. mitch makes that point. mitch says you have to rehabilitate yourself but the atmosphere within the prison is totally in suitable for rehabilitation. in effect prisoners are locked up and there's a state of nature inside the prison. mitch talked about seeing -- when he first came in and you would see people in effect dominating other people and almost owning them, virtual slave system and in this kind of survival of the fittest you see it within the prison setting. once he became a christian he became a christian. he said i want to live that kind of life so a challenge to mitch and others who converted as well is how to practice your faith in this atmosphere that is so dreadful for someone to practice
his or her faith? so that's the kind of difficulty that mitch faces. the way he has done over the years, the way he was -- has dealt with hostile people is fascinating. we talked about that a lot in "death on hold" and people who want to fight him how he deals with them and how we talk to them and eventually he maneuvers them in a different direction. quite impressive. his actions in the way he is able to stand up for himself and it's a model for others. that's why he was elected, he was selected as a teacher to be teaching other prisoners. he did learn to write. he has receive college credit. this man started as a letter to now has college credit. he was on death row and was elected by the other prisoners as being their leader. he is in the honor dorm. he is a model for others and prisoners who have read his
books have almost uniformly said mitch, you have told my story as well. your background is my story as well. many of them are amazed. >> host: at one of his trials you two were accused of supporting him so you could write a book and profit off of his experience. >> guest: the prosecutor accused of -- a setback. >> guest: this was 30 years later. it was not our intention at the time. guess of the prosecutor, he was doing his job. he is very good. he had looked up the background and at that time on burt and burt by that time had written three mystery books. he came right at us, you are doing this for-profit. what other motive do you have? >> guest: i just put a article in the -- it was too much to be
true that this fellow who is politically conservative could be coming into this setting and arguing for the release or at least the removal of this prisoner. so he thought it must be, we must have some kind of alter your motive and didn't understand that we were absolutely captivated by this man's story. we believed in him. we were fighting for him because we believed in him and god was guiding a relationship. >> guest: exactly. >> host: in the book came out was mitch rutledge able to do any interviews or was able to correspond with anybody in the press to talk about this? >> guest: not a great deal. as you can imagine is very limited. there is a web site, death on hold book.com that our publisher nelson publishing is put together and they actually have mitch's voice on that web site
talking about it but it's limited access. we do have a friend in california who is working on a small documentary on mitchell and he has been able to get permission from the state of alabama. he went in and set up an interview. interviewing mitchell takes a lot of red tape to get in. >> host: an aide to folsom are there too many people in prison today? >> guest: i believe there are. i don't think anywhere near everyone who is in prison should be an but we have seen at homan, there are lots of people particularly men who, i'm no expert i would call them clinically insane. they had to be separated from the public. they are dangerous and mitchell will tell you that. it's frightening. some of them have to be removed
from society but there are people in prison i think who are in their who can get out and do well and there are many ministry groups who work with prisoners when they get out. it's hard to sometimes identify everyone and mitch says men have to rehabilitate themselves in this place. the sad thing is so many of the men in prison have no one on the outside. they have nor support group. their parents are probably dead just as mitchell's are. mitchell's mother died when she was 29. she gave for two mitchell when she was 13. he was 16 years old when his mother died. so many of the men have said mitch, this is my story too. there are not have parents or their parents have died in drug overdoses. the main problem that leads to all of this is the breakdown of
the family. that is the national disaster that we are dealing with. >> host: anything to add to that? >> guest: if you look at the rise in the prison population in the united states in the 70s and 80s it follows the rise of unwed mothers who gave birth to children where the father was not present. the father is very significant here and when we go into the visiting yard to visit mitch we will see a father which we don't often do. we see a father coming to visit that child that is in prison. first of all we don't see to many in the prison but when we do we know that prisoner has more hope than those without that male figure. >> host: what was it like for a former republican county chairman to work with the southern poverty law center? >> guest: it was very
interesting, yes. dennis who is the hero in the story -- >> guest: he is, he is mitch rutledge's lawyer. we are still in touch with him. guess who we are in touch with dennis. he defended mitch in the first trial and subsequent pretrial hearings. dennis is from ohio originally. he went to the southern poverty law center in the 70s to work down there practically free of charge and help men like mitchell rutledge. the southern poverty law center would only take desperate cases and mitchell's was pretty desperate. dennis took it to defend him and stuck with it all through the hearing. it was pretty interesting. dennis being a very practical attorney and a good one, he was glad to have character witnesses. he simply said i never expected to republicans to show up to
testify. there were a number of people pro and con at second re-sentencing hearing for mitchell. sister lillian was there. >> host: and that woman from virginia, a daughter? >> guest: she is and admirals daughter. she could not attend the trial that she was at home rooting for everyone to do their best. sister lillian was there and dennis even with this background it was funny because he puts sister lillian on the stand for defense first because sister lillian was a very gentle person and she was one of these, she thought everyone should be allowed out and they do much better the next time. he didn't want her rooting the whole thing for saying that. he gave her a lot of coaching and then he put me on the stand
up and put burt on the stand. if you painted burt is a bleeding heart liberal you weren't going to get away with that. i said not dennis i want you to know your star witnesses are republicans here. he said, i know that. >> guest: he was delighted and its open the doors for us to discuss political issues which often can be done today between people on different sides. we have respect for one another and we help one another and we both enjoyed being in the company of one another. >> host: "death on hold," much of it is in mitch's voice. is there a limit to the proceeds that he can receive from this? >> guest: yes, and i think some people have wondered why we are listed as the authors. we put it in mitchell's voice because we thought that was much more effective. >> guest: it was an interaction.
the book was written by mitch writing letters. we would edit the letters and send them back and then would we go forward. it took years to write that book. guess who the other thing is mitchell basically had to give us the facts. some sentences in the book are mitchell's sentences. much of it is taking the facts of mitchell's life and putting them together but we did all of the interviewing. we called all of the characters involved, we interviewed dennis and we interviewed some of the sisters, pam sisters who are in the book. we interviewed of course sister lillian. we knew her very well so we talked to all these people who put it together so we put it in mitch's voice but he didn't really write the book. it's his story and then we had to fit it together. his speech and his grammar when
you are writing a book you have to write a certain way, use certain words and think about paragraphs and that's not what mitchell is thinking about. it's definitely his story. >> host: the story is similar to a lot of the cases or situations of brian stevenson from montgomery alabama. >> guest: correct. he works with death penalty prisoners and he has been very effective. he backed into it also. he didn't necessarily start wanting to do that but he stumbled into it and that is correct. >> host: "death on hold" a prisoner's desperate prayer and the unlikely family who became god's answer is the name of the book. burton and anita folsom are the authors that worked with mitchell rockbridge on this. the web site once more? >> guest: death on hold book
.com. this photo was sent to me in e-mail in 2012 weeks after, ask the days after president rocco palma's reelected in 2012. it was at the top an e-mail from the christian coalition of america and i was struck by it at the time. he became right on the heels in between the election and thanksgiving and it had this caption underneath it. it said family in prayer, pennsylvania 1942. it was a black-and-white photo and a white family saying grace before a meal and bennett had this line of text further explaining the transition from the photo to the message first coalition of america.